Last week I wrote about the impact of the empty mangers on my life personally, but this time I want to turn to another impact of that emptiness.
I’m in a country that is officially Catholic, but is known to be very secular. They have every religious holiday the calendar offers, but they are vacation days, not holy-days. A few years ago, ‘Le Monde des Religions’ described the decline. It began historically with the movement towards equality. In 1905 the government declared that all religious buildings would be state owned. Now although half the population will name themselves Catholic, they say it is mainly a family tradition and half of those say they don’t believe in God. Only 10% attend church and one third of the population call themselves atheists.
When I walk the streets and see the empty mangers, I’m aware that I’m in a city, in a country, that has largely walked away from faith. There is a deep spiritual emptiness. We attend a school concert. I don’t hear any familiar Christmas Carols. Although we are spared the inundation of Christmas muzak in the stores, the music that I hear in restaurants is American music, some of it secular Christmas standards. Yes, there are church services, but most churches are filled with Christmas Concerts, not services. The city is beautiful. The windows sparkle. The gift bags dazzle. The food sumptuous. The manger is empty.
I realize that not all my struggles to keep a spiritual practice happening are related to travelling. I pick up on the spiritual energy around me. I enter one church for some time in meditation and as I sit quietly I feel the darkness around me. It was built in the 6th century. It once housed a flourishing monastery. It has experienced war and violence. All of the monastery has been destroyed, leaving only the sanctuary, not the living and serving quarters. The manger was emptied.
The empty mangers became a symbol for me, a feeling image, of the spiritual emptiness of this country and I fear, much of our world.
My hope lies partly in the fact that at least the Nativity Scene is still set out. I think today I’ll circle back and see Jesus in those mangers!
But the fullness of my hope lies in God, who is always present, who doesn’t run from darkness, or from our war and violence, who will, in the end, be the last word.
Another church I frequent is beautiful. People flow in and out of it all day, everyday. It is a place of prayer for the faithful. There I find peace. There are pockets of life everywhere. We need to seek them out and do our part to breathe new life into them and through them.
Where do you find the pockets of God? How can you breathe new life?
If this is interesting to you, please show support by sharing it with a friend. Let’s broaden the contemplative pathway.
Love and prayers
Mystic in Motion
Contemplative Fire, Community Leader Canada